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Bob Dylan is intrigued by Barack Obama, but says the real power lies elsewhere

April 6, 2009 |  3:34 pm

Bobdylan The bard of Minnesota recently had a chat with Bill Flanagan of the Times of London where they talked about the new American president, his family, and his background.

Bob Dylan is famously well read but he's only cracked two autobiographies penned by U.S. presidents, Ulysses S. Grant's, and Barack Hussien Obama's. Dylan says "Dreams of My Father" piqued his interest in Obama, but that doesn't mean the ever-irascible singer-songwriter is suddenly buying into politics as an agent for change.

"Politics creates more problems than it solves. It can be counter-productive," Dylan told Flanagan in this excerpt, which can be found on BobDylan.com  (the full interview can also be downloaded and read via .pdf). "The real power is in the hands of small groups of people and I don't think they have titles."

Of Obama's childhood, Dylan said that one thing that appeals to him is the fact that it's almost unbelievable.  "He’s got an interesting background. He’s like a fictional character, but he’s real. First off, his mother was a Kansas girl. Never lived in Kansas though, but with deep roots. You know, like Kansas bloody Kansas. John Brown the insurrectionist. Jesse James and Quantrill. Bushwhackers, Guerillas. Wizard of Oz Kansas. I think Barack has Jefferson Davis back there in his ancestry someplace. And then his father. An African intellectual. Bantu, Masai, Griot type heritage -- cattle raiders, lion killers. I mean it’s just so incongruous that these two people would meet and fall in love. You kind of get past that though. And then you’re into his story. Like an odyssey except in reverse."

Even in interviews Dylan has a way with words. More from that chat after the jump.

Flanagan and Dylan go back and forth about music a lot, which makes sense, being that the forthcoming "Together Through Life" is Mr. Zimmerman's 33rd studio album in his storied career. But the best parts for this audience are when they talk about Obama. An excerpt:

BF: What else did you find compelling about him?

BD: Well, mainly his take on things. His writing style hits you on more than one level. It makes you feel and think at the same time and that is hard to do. He says profoundly outrageous things. He’s looking at a shrunken head inside of a glass case in some museum with a bunch of other people and he’s wondering if any of these people realize that they could be looking at one of their ancestors.

BF: Do you think he’ll make a good president?

BD: I have no idea. He’ll be the best president he can be. Most of those guys come into office with the best of intentions and leave as beaten men. Johnson would be a good example of that … Nixon, Clinton in a way, Truman, all the rest of them going back. You know, it’s like they all fly too close to the sun and get burned.

In the embedded audio track above "I Feel a Change Coming On", Ann Powers wrote that although it might appear to be about this new administration, something else is blowing in the wind.  "The title seems to nod at the Obama era, but this country-tinged song is at once more universal and more personal -- a meditation on sunsets, both real and imagined."

Bob Dylan's "Together Through Life" hits stores April 28.

-- Tony Pierce

Photo credit: AP Photo/Sony BMG, William Claxton, file

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